3 Ideas for Photographing Your Next Adventure

Raise your hand if you've ever looked at your photos after an awesome trip and felt that your photos didn't totally capture the feeling and the place you experienced.  I know my hand is way up high right now.

After years of traveling and photographing my own adventures, I've learned different tricks to move past the basic snapshot and take photos that really tell the story behind my adventure.  And now I want to pass those tips on to you!  So without further ado, here are 3 things to keep in mind when photographing your next adventure:

1. How do you want to emotionally remember a place?

This is the first thing I think about whenever I'm traveling somewhere.  It's the 'why' behind my photos.  Naturally, you will be photographing the living daylights out of the classic touristy icons, but after you fulfill those desires, think about how the place makes you feel.  How do you want to remember it?

Does it overwhelm you?  Does it make you happy, peaceful, or inspired?  How can you visualize those feelings?

If it makes you happy, get a photo of you laughing.  If it makes you feel peaceful, get a photo of you admiring the view.  If it's overwhelming, think about how you can capture its scale (more of that in #2). 

Does it require you to be in the photo?  As your travel companion to take the shot, flag down an eager stranger to help you out, or bring a tripod and utilize your self-timer.

Once your trip ends, this photo will serve as your visual interpretation of how you were feeling at that moment.  Remember, your photos tell a story - so help yourself remember important moments with more than just a snapshot.

2. Think about scale.

We all know photos don't do a place justice when you can't fathom just how large the canyon is, or how high the waterfall is.  If you visit a place that is so overwhelming large (think: the Grand Canyon), try using a person in your shot so that you can capture a better sense of the scale.  Use your travel companion, or if you're at a well-known spot, a stranger might perfectly enter your shot.  If you're traveling on your own, bust out that trusty self-timer.

3. What makes your adventure yours?

Whether you realize it or not, everyone has a unique adventure that's specific to them.  Whether it's the rain falling, the food you're eating, or the train you somehow managed to catch at the last minute - capture that!  It adds a story behind the photo.

I'm guilty of constantly forgetting to photograph food (am I the only one??), yet the photos I do get of my food are usually filled with stories and memories.  Maybe I struggled to speak a foreign language while ordering, maybe I tried something new, or maybe I was eyeballed by pigeons as I scarfed down my street vendor hot dog in Copenhagen.  These are all specific memories that I cherish and will forever remember thanks to my photos.

4. Bonus: Not every photo is perfect.

One last bonus thought: it's important to remember that not every photo is perfect.  This might sound obvious, but it's easy to forget when you're on the trip of a lifetime and your photos aren't meeting your expectations.  Life is meant to be lived and adventures are meant to be experienced.  Don't get bogged down by the fact that you didn't capture the perfect moment or that so-and-so got a better shot than you.  Some of your photos will be mediocre, but have an awesome story behind them.  Some of your photos will be stellar, but have virtually no story behind them.  And vice versa!  The point is, capture your adventure in a way that works for you and leaves you with the best memories (good or bad!).

In this photo of the waterfall (Skogafoss, Iceland), my lens was soaked.  It was raining and I was totally drenched, but I had to get photos of this epic waterfall.  You can see that my lens was soaked in this shot - nothing is sharp, the ground is all kinds of fuzzy and distorted and maybe it's not as epic of a shot as some of the other photographer's who've captured Skogafoss in all of its glory.  But... this was how I experienced Skogafoss and this photo brings me back to that exact moment, huddled in my rain coat and rain pants, totally enamored by the sheer power of this place.  And for that memory alone, this photo is worth a thousand words.

Now it's your turn - what has worked, or not worked for you when photographing your adventures?  Let me know in the comments below!